Sustainability is such a confusing word. It’s such a buzzword. We all use it. But what does it really mean? I think sometimes the idea of sustainability leaves us with a façade of perfection when it will never really be that. But I think a good guideline of living sustainably is just to look at your choices and then asking, “How can I make better ones? How can I make choices that are going to have a positive lasting effect on this earth?”
Here are six steps we can all take toward living more sustainably:
1. Eat local.
What’s literally in your backyard? Get things as close to the source as possible. Pull from the ground or harvest from the ocean or land yourself. If that’s not possible, know the people who are providing you with your food.
I think the best guide to sustainability is trying to eat locally. It’s trying to get to know what’s around you. What are the resources around you, whether you’re eating fish, whether you’re eating meat, whether you’re vegan — just looking at truly what your own backyard is providing for you and trying to pull from there.
2. Get to know who catches your fish.
Start with anyone in your network who may be a fisherman or spearfisher. Getting to know your community is one of the best things you can do to live a more sustainable life and getting to share information and have conversations.
3. Ask questions.
What kind of fish is this? Where was it caught? Where did it come from?
I think asking questions and trying to get a better understanding of fishing practices themselves helps immensely. It’s really hard to simplify, but I’d say some general rules of thumb are to focus attention on small-scale practices.
4. Develop a better understanding of fishing practices.
Spearfishing on a breath is as selective as it gets. There is no bycatch. Bycatch is when one species is targeted, but other species are caught incidentally that may go to waste. This often happens with nets.
Looking for practices that eliminate bycatch is huge. And a good way to do that is to look for the more small-scale artisanal fishing fleets, fishing boats, or people who go out with hook and line by day, not for weeks at a time.
There are species other than salmon, cod, and tuna. If we target the same few fish globally, ecosystems will eventually collapse. Smaller fish that are lower on the food chain can be great options. In California, Sheepshead, Calico Bass, Sand Bass, and others are great options. On the East Coast, scup and tautog are great options.
If we just target the same few fish globally, the entire ecosystem is going to collapse and that’s going to affect other ecosystems around it. So, I think it’s really important to kind of look beyond that because the ocean, nature itself, is so it thrives in diversity. And if we don’t start doing the same, we’re only going to hurt it and hurt ourselves.
In Hawaii, we have so many different types of local reef fish that I love to switch up on a weekly basis. There’s always fish that are overlooked because they don’t necessarily give you, huge, big filets that you can easily chop up and turn into a filet of fish sandwiches or whatnot, but they’re just as delicious, if not more. And they’re so fun to work with. There’s an abundance of different types of species out there for us.
6. Use all parts of the fish.
Respect the once-living animal and do it justice.
We kind of have to eat whatever is given to us at restaurants, or whatever is served to us because we don’t even have the skills to do it ourselves. And I know it can be really intimidating and it also can be kind of daunting for a lot of people to look a fish in the eyes to understand that fish have bones and fish have a skeleton, and it’s sometimes so much easier to eat food when there’s no face or soul or bones associated with that. But I think that’s a thought process that can hold us unaccountable. I think that if we are going to consume something and put nature into our body, we should understand what that really means. You want to do that animal justice and want to want to use all parts, to savor every morsel of nutrition and not waste any of it.
Editor’s Note: World-class chef, champion spearfisher, and new mother Kimi Werner shares a lifetime of knowledge in her Guide to Self-Sufficient Cooking. Learn to scale, gut, and fillet a fish, source ingredients, and prepare meals more sustainably. Kimi shares three of her favorite recipes designed to waste nothing, extend the life of your harvest, and maximize appreciation for every bite. Enjoy meals like never before.